E-letter: Summer stories

It is summer in Canada, and life certainly could be worse. The economy is chugging along at a nice clip and the bellwether indicator for our sector, the number of building permits issued, is up nine percent in May. I understand our national media can find a cloud for every silver lining, but sometimes things just are what they are.

Kerry Knudsen

Coming up on 13 years ago, my daughter and her Mexican fiancé decided to get married in Canada. In our back yard, to be exact, along the riverbank under the old maple tree.

Once the decision was made and the date was set, the predicable flurry of calls, documents, appointments and errands cut loose. Because time was tight and the lists were long, I volunteered to take Tomás to get the marriage licence.

Can you see where this is going? Tomás was 13 years younger then, and quite good-looking. I was younger, too, but can lay no claim to youthful vigour or freshness. I was a publisher in my 50s with the skin tone one normally associates with those of us that work behind a desk.

So we walked into the city hall, the two ladies at the wicket looked up quizzically, and, since Tomás’s English is heavily accented, I volunteered, and announced, “We need a marriage licence.”

You should have seen the faces. Eyes darted one to the other, jaws clamped to disguise reaction and hands started shuffling random papers — likely faster than they had been shuffled in the last decade. One of the attendants finally muttered, “Give us a minute. We have never done one of these.”

Of course, it was immediately obvious what conclusion had been drawn, so I jumped to the rescue. “No, no,” I said. “This is my future son-in-law.”

In unison, the clerks said, “Thank God.”

That has been a great story around many a Thanksgiving table, and all’s well that ends well. However, don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-anybody. I am, however, a word guy, with many years of formal training in both traditional English and in historical and anthro-linguistics, and I can tell you that sometimes things just are what they are. Culture may try to bend to accommodate legalistic and punitive social sculpturing, but words mean things, and changing the meaning of words causes cultural confusion. Look in Genesis under “Babel.”

So things worked out just great for the clerks and the future in-laws, the licence was had and last Sunday the family, now grown to four, was over for the regular Sunday dinner and visit. Tomás owns a small house-framing company, so the increase in building permits is good for him, and once his houses are closed in it’s time for our sector to move in, which is good for you, and it’s good for me.


Another quick word story — as I have mentioned before, I enjoy bicycle riding, and I have the luxury of living 300 meters off the Trans-Canada Trail, where I can ride unthreatened by unruly drivers 16 km north to a small restaurant alongside both the trail and the highway, and 16 km back, for a total of 20 miles, U.S.

After the same 13 years of use alluded to above, the rear axle was bent, the gear cassette was worn and the brake parts were soft and spongy, so last Thursday I took it to my local bike shop. After analyzing the issues, the owner asked me how soon I needed it. I responded that “need” is a strong word, but that I wait for nice weather to ride, and it was supposed to be nice the next day, and that I was booked the next day for a lunch meeting across the street, so I would like that, but was flexible.

His response was that he provides “rush” service at no charge, and is happy to do so. However, he said, if you request rush service and don’t pick up the bike when agreed, then a rush charge applies.

I like that. In the world of occupied-space contracting, it seems you can never get a straight answer to the question, “When do you need it?” It seems the contractors always want the earliest promise possible, and then are not ready for the installation when your crew shows up. This causes lost time for you between the sale and the installation, and it seems always to snowball and cause the epidemic failure to meet deadlines diagnostic of the construction industry.

Deadlines in construction are like deadlines in publishing. One of my old professors had an opinion on deadlines. “Just exactly which half of that word is it,” he would ask over the tops of his half-glasses, “that you don’t understand?”

Deadlines, repairs, installations, marriage certificates, Sunday dinners and contracts. Sometimes things just are what they are, and the sooner we learn to comply and facilitate the sooner we get on the road to efficiency, cost reduction and quality.



Speaking of time, a week from today will be the end of move-in for exhibitors at the AWFS trade show in Las Vegas. The temperature right now back by the river is a comfortable 73 degrees American. Tuesday in Vegas will be 104, and 108 on Wednesday. If you’re going and need something more to impress the folks back home, take along a thermometer and gauge the heat in the middle of the blacktop parking lot surrounding the Convention Center. I’m sayin’ 115 by 3:00 on Wed. If you care to bet, I’m certain you can find somebody locally to cover it.

Personally, I will be fixing up Room # N243, just up the escalator from the main halls, for our next Canada Night event, which we put on periodically for Canadian residents, only, after the show at 5:00 p.m., this time on Wednesday. I assume if you get this letter, you are invited.

Mike Edwards, our videographic company, has compiled a catalog of Canadian-themed places, people and activities that will be running in the background somewhere, and several sponsors have seen to it that there will be free beer and food.

Objective? None, really. This is certainly not the standard “get ‘em while they’re tired,” predatory sales set-up. We, AWFS and our sponsors simply want you to have a spot to sit, cool off, and wait until the congestion dies down to catch a cab or bus off to your next agenda item for the day.

As we have noted before, it is important for Canadians to send a signal to the suppliers and the Yanks that we are here, we stand in numbers and we buy in numbers, and we are interested in being seen differently than just another walker.

Finally, it’s Canada’s 150th year of confederation, and it’s worth hoisting a brew together in concert at one of the biggest and most energized venues for our industry on the planet.

The staff of Wood Industry will be on hand, and would love to listen. After all, you certainly listen to us over the year, and we need your input.

The operational facts are free, food, and Canadian. See you in a week.


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